mile 774.7 – 788.5 (+ .8 mile on the Bullfrog Lake Trail)
Wow. Today. Wow.
Today was one of those days that felt like three days. Or four or five. It was the most scenic, epic, terrifying, exhilarating, beautiful, difficult day so far.
I got out of camp around 5:15, a little late. I just didn’t want to put my feet in those cold, wet shoes! But, eventually I did, and it wasn’t that bad, although my shoelaces were frozen and wouldn’t budge.
I started walking and, immediately, there was water in the trail. Snow is melting everywhere and turning the trail into a river. I delicately skirted around the water, trying not to get my already wet shoes any wetter.
I was all alone for the first couple of hours. I felt strong and expansive, able to inhale and exhale hugely. It’s me and the mountains!
Soon, the trail was covered in snow. Time for my microspikes! I’ve been excited to use these! I put them on and almost danced across the snow. Navigation was pretty easy. I just followed the footprints in the snow.
This place is huge! All morning I was in a giant bowl of melting snow, looking up at huge mountains all around me. I felt I might never reach Forester Pass.
As I neared the pass, the footprints disappeared. I wondered how I would get up to the switchbacks to get to the top? In the end, I just had to make my own way, scrambling up the side of the snowy mountainside until I found a piece of trail.
(That’s where I’m going!)
Up and up and up. I slept at 11,000 feet last night. Forester Pass is at 13,200 feet- the highest point on the PCT. By 9:00, I was at the top of the pass. Two German guys passed me and reached the top before me. It seems so easy for them!
I eagerly tried my phone for service and got nothing. My heart sank. I miss Hunter so much that I have seriously thought of quitting the trail and going home. This is the longest we’ve ever gone without talking.
No reason to stay at the top, and the sun was already starting to melt the snow, so it was time to move. The trail was completely covered in snow. I picked my way down the mountainside, following footprints, hyper vigilant.
Looking back on this, I feel like I can remember every second, while it also seems like a blur. I picked my way across a footprint ledge of snow 13,000 feet up the side of a mountain! I found a little island of earth in the snow and managed to find the trail. I switchbacked down the trail until it turned to snow again.
This time there were no footprints, but little snow slides going straight down the side and ending in more footprints. I took my ice axe off my pack. Time for my first glissade! I was terrified! I s l o w l y slid down to meet the footprints and then carefully picked my way to another island of earth. I stopped to put my ice axe away and then thought to go back and get a picture of the glissade tracks.
(Wheeee! A long way down!)
This is when I noticed that my phone was missing. Surprisingly, I didn’t panic. I figured it had come out of my pocket while I was glissading, and I was right. There it sat, about a quarter of the way back up the slide. It was a pain in the butt to go back and get it, but I carefully climbed back up and slid back down.
(Looks a little less scary from the bottom.)
Then came the hardest part of my whole day. (May I take this moment to remind everyone that I grew up my whole life in America’s snowless deep south? No snow skiing vacations for me.) The sun had already started making everything slushy. This is when it gets dangerous. The snow gets soft and can give way underfoot. I very carefully tiptoed across the softening snow, from rock island to rock island, bouldered across the islands, found the trail, tiptoed across a snow bridge over a fast creek, found the trail, lost the trail, found the trail. I walked through water and mud all day long.
My hope was to make it all the way out today and get to town, but that snow was intense. I made it about a mile into the Bullfrog Lake trail (one of the trail that leads out toward Kearsarge Pass to Independence, CA) and found a beautiful place to camp by a lake, croaking with bullfrog sounds.
Tomorrow morning I will hike the final seven miles up over Kearsarge Pass and out to a trailhead parking lot, where I hope to easily find a ride to the town of Independence. All I can think about is calling Hunter. Don’t judge me.
Today I survived the most terrifying day of the trail so far.
Today I met a guy named Cashmere, who does trail work when he’s not hiking, but would like to do something more creative. Like most of the people out here, he seems to be in transition, which is exciting and uncomfortable, much like the PCT itself.
Today I learned that I should always make sure my valuables are secured when glissading.
Today’s hike was powered by the will to live and the search for a cell signal.